Thursday, October 25, 2007
Posted by Mike Riley at 1:47 AM
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Victims were placed on a bench, face down, and their necks positioned between the uprights.
The actual beheading was very quick - often to the gathered crowd's disgust - taking less than half a second from blade drop to the victim's head rolling into the waiting basket.
However, debate rages over whether the quickness of the execution was humane or not, as many doctors put forward the notion that it could take up to 30 seconds before the victim lost consciousness.
That piece of gruesome news would not have worried the crowd, which continually called for aristocratic and royalist blood to be spilt.
An estimated 40,000 people travelled on the tumbrels through Paris to die under Madame Guillotine."
It was not my day to offer death when the King was killed. I have heard that he approached his end with an almost inhuman dignity. He was said to have prepared himself for the blade before approaching the Guillotine. Louis, when approached by the Revolution guards who wanted to tie his hands before allowing him to ascend the platform, called out in a masterful voice, "Do what you have been ordered to do. I accept that. But you will not bind my hands!" He was a brave man, was Louis.
I admit that I am sympathetic to the King's position. He had actually been trying to reign in the nobility, not at all like his two predecessors on the throne. But the example we had been presented across the ocean, in America, was too tempting to ignore. I believe that, had an acknowledged saint been upon the throne at the point the Revolution began, he, too would have suffered the same fate as Louis.
But whatever was the point in killing his consort, Marie Antoinette? Certainly, she had been a prime example of the excesses at Versailles, but after her children were born she settled down, and became an exemplary mother, and wife to the King. And what was her reward? Separation from her children, imprisonment in the squalid Concierge prison. and the terror of facing the Revolutionary guards herself, as her husband had.
But for all the criticism and torment, she, too faced her death with a special type of grace. As she was led up to me, she stepped on my foot, Now if anyone deserved the freedom to do as they wished, Marie had earned it, Yet she spoke up then, the first and only words she spoke that day. "Pardon me Monsieur for stepping on your foot, I didn't mean to". (Now understand that more than a few have stumbled en route to that final encounter.None, except Marie Antoinette, had ever apologized for a misstep.) Those were the last words she spoke on this Earth.
I pray that, when my last hour comes, that I may approach my end with the dignity and calm that Marie Antoinette did. Quell femme galante!
-Something different from
Posted by Mike Riley at 12:25 AM
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sometimes, timing is everything. Case in point: in the run-up to Blog Action Day, environmental issues happened to come to the forefront, in the form of the selection of Al Gore and the United Nations for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, because of their commitment to the environment. In case you hadn't heard, today, October 15th, is Blog Action Day, and the cause of choice is the need of all humans to take better care of the planet we share.
If you cruise across the Blogosphere today [and I'd encourage it], you will no doubt find statistics, and compelling arguments concerning a better treatment of the Earth. I don't have the statistics, and, for various reasons, I'm actually writing the dispatch from home, where I don't have T1 lines to make accessing those statistics easier. As for compelling arguments, is there a more telling one than the prospect of our grandchildren, or great-grandchildren being unable to enjoy the sounds of birds outside their homes, or to visit a forest filled with life, or even to walk down the street because the ozone levels are too high? Forget what we have already done to this planet; we MUST do better for it!
The folks at the Blog Action Day home site have suggested a few non-profit organizations that are trying to help, and could use your help as well:
-The National Wildlife Federation: www.nwf.org
-The Nature Conservancy: www.nature.org
-The Conservation Fund: www.conservationfund.org
There are other suggestions at www.blogactionday.org; if you can help financially, well and good, if not, please consider the role your lifestyle plays in harming or helping the Earth. Reconsider those actions that destroy the air, water, and soil we all need. It takes a whole planet to save the human race.
Friday, October 12, 2007
by Lim Chang-WonThu Oct 11, 12:54 AM ET
Sim Jae-Duck was born in a restroom and now he plans to live and die in one -- a 1.6 million dollar toilet-shaped house designed to promote his tireless campaign for cleaner loos worldwide.
Sim will open what is billed as the world's one and only toilet house on November 11 to mark the launch of his World Toilet Association.
The 419-square-metre (4,508-sq-foot) concrete and glass structure is rising on the site of Sim's former home in his native city of Suweon, 40 kilometres (24 miles) south of Seoul.
Before he moves in, anyone who is flush with funds can rent it for 50,000 dollars a day -- with proceeds going to his campaign to provide poor countries with proper sanitary facilities.
Apart from two bedrooms, two guestrooms and other rooms, the two-storey house -- of course -- features three deluxe toilets. Unlike the giant "toilet" in which they are located, they will not be see-through affairs.
"A showcase bathroom screened by a glass wall is located in its centre, while other toilets have elegant fittings or water conservation devices," Sim told AFP.
The showcase loo will feature a device producing a mist to make users feel secure. An electronic sensor will raise the lid automatically when people enter, and there will also be music for patrons.
The house, complete with a stream and small garden in front, is named Haewoojae, meaning "a place of sanctuary where one can solve one's worries".
Sim's birth in a restroom was in line with traditional beliefs.
"It was intentional. My mother followed advice from my grandmother that people born in restrooms will enjoy long lives," said the 74-year-old.
Sim's campaign began during his term as Suweon mayor from 1995 to 2002. His drive to transform toilets into "clean and beautiful resting places imbued with culture" earned him the nickname "Mayor Toilet".
Public restrooms in the city were jazzed up with paintings, fresh flowers or even small gardens. His achievements prompted Sim to launch the Korea Toilet Association in 1999, in time for South Korea's co-hosting with Japan of the football World Cup three years later.
Then he decided to take his clean toilets drive worldwide. The proposed World Toilet Association might be seen to rival squeaky-clean Singapore, where the World Toilet Organisation is based, but Sim has said the work of the two bodies will not overlap.
Indeed, he hopes his toilet house will highlight the global need for better sanitation.
"My family has already agreed to preserve this house as a symbol of South Korea's new toilet culture after my death," he said. "The house will be remembered as an example of saving mankind from diseases and protecting the environment."
Sim, a member of parliament, will host the World Toilet Association's inaugural meeting which he hopes will attract 300 representatives from 70 countries.
On the final day he plans to invite all participants to his house, which he said "envisions a new concept to place toilets in the centre of our life".
Sim said his campaign will focus on setting international standards for clean public toilets, adding that countries such as Mongolia, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil are actively supporting it.
Epidemics caused by poor sanitation worldwide cost two million lives a year, he said. Worldwide, 2.6 billion people live without toilets. Elsewhere, poorly designed flush toilets waste vast amounts of potential drinking water, he added.
A future project in his active mind is IT-based toilets, where people can check their health or surf the Internet.
"Toilets were once regarded as stinking and dirty places. Not any more. They must be treated as the sanctuary that protects human health," Sim said.
Posted by Mike Riley at 1:31 AM
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I don't normally blog about sports [and I'm not planning on it, either], but a recent death in the world of sports caught my attention. Somewhere in that group photo on the left [forgive me for not being able to discover where, exactly] is one Edwyn Owen, known for most of his life as "Bob" Owen. Owen was a member of the 1960 US Men's Olympic Ice Hockey team, the first American hockey team to win Olympic gold, and the only one to do so until the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" team. Despite the fact that the '60 squad is nearly forgotten today, its story may be more compelling than the 1980 team.
Kevin Allen, in "USA Hockey: A Great Tradition", said this about the circumstances of the US club in 1960: "In many aspects, the U.S. team's performance at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, was every bit as remarkable, if not more so, than the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Olympic Games. First, the Americans had never beaten the Soviets. Second, the Canadians were better than the Soviets. Third, the team hadn't played all that well in the 18-game pre-Olympic tour. And finally, some players didn't like seeing Herb Brooks and Bob Dupuis dropped from the team to make room for the Clearys. Dissension threatened to undermine this team before it even arrived in Squaw Valley." 'The Clearys' refers to Bill and Bob Cleary. Bill was a great amateur player who insisted that his brother be added to the roster. They were one of two pairs of brothers on the roster; Roger and Bill Christian, from Minnesota, was the other.
The United States was hosting its first Winter Games since 1932. It was hoped that the Americans could at least match the '52 and '56 teams, who both earned silver. But coach Jack Riley [no relation] pulled his all-amateur [this was in the era that pro athletes were banned from Olympic play] team together, smoothed over the controversies, and led them into the final round. In round-robin play, the US beat Sweden, then edged Canada and the Soviet Union [the first time the US had beaten them, and a Cold War victory to boot], then faced Czechoslovakia for the gold. The Squaw Valley Games seemed to be oddly-arranged; after beating the USSR in an exciting night game, the Americans had to come back for an 8 AM contest the following morning! Sluggish from the previous night's effort, the US trailed the Czechs 4-3 after two periods. But a third-period Roger Christian hat trick [three goals, for the uninformed] helped push the Americans to a 9-4 victory, and the Gold.
The 1960 Winter Olympics, despite being played in the US, didn't draw a lot of interest in the host country. Winter sports in general, and hockey in particular, rated very low on the leisure activity "radar" of the era. CBS, the television network that broadcast the Games in America, paid only $50,000 [a low figure, even in those days] for the broadcast rights. Few of the hockey team's games were televised (although the club's success led to the first national broadcasts of pro hockey in America). After the publicity surrounding the 1980 team, there were reports of some bitterness and dismay among the 1960 team's alumni, feeling that they, too, deserved some renown for their feat.
Most of the Olympians did not end up in pro hockey; in fact, the most famous post-Olympics members were the Christian brothers. They used their carpentry skills to design and build hockey sticks for the successful company that bore their name. Ironically, one of the players cut to make way for the Cleary brothers went on to make some Olympic history of his own. Herb Brooks was the coach of the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" US team.
In retirement, Bob Owen lived quietly, supporting amateur hockey in his hometown of Topeka, Kansas. He loaned his name to the championship trophy of the town's tavern-league. The Bob Owen Cup was an empty beer keg, with a silver cup attached to the top.
Owen died last week, in a bizarre incident in his native Kansas. His car was found in an open field, aflame. Fire investigators believe the vehicle's engine set dry grass under the car ablaze, starting the fatal fire. Bob Owen was so severely burned in the blaze that it took until earlier this week to identify him.
Owen wasn't a memorable part of a nearly-forgotten team. But he did play for his country, and helped achieve victory in unlikely circumstances. Most of us can't say that.
- Mike Riley
Posted by Mike Riley at 2:35 AM
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Posted by Mike Riley at 4:31 AM
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Posted by Mike Riley at 5:17 AM